Two years have passed since Memphis favorites Reigning Sound have released an album, the critically acclaimed Shattered, but these guys hardly need a reason to go on tour. There certainly didn’t need to be an occasion other than the simple fact that Greg Cartwright and co. were coming through Portland for a show, and that was enough to get a good size crowd of loyalists out to Dante’s for a night of blazing rock and roll.
While people slowly trickled in, local band Hollow Sidewalks got things going with a set of darker, heavier rock. Lead singer Nora Murphy’s straightforward vocal delivery was a natural fit for the band’s sound, which felt shoegazey and droning yet with more energy. They were unquestionably the most psychedelic and heavy band of the night, and their sound had a massive presence that hit hard for those who were there earlier enough to catch the set. Seattle’s The Tripwires followed with a set of pub rock meets power pop that was less impressive than Hollow Sidewalks’ performance but nonetheless a proper setting of the table for the night’s main course.
Reigning Sound’s performance was the epitome of what a great rock and roll show can be. The clean-shaven Greg Cartwright led the band through a selection of songs spanning the Reigning Sound catalogue. There were moments of pop-laden garage rock like on “Time Bomb High School” and the boogie woogie “North Cackalacky Girl” while other tunes careened into punk territory. The audience pumped their fists, sang along, and danced to every moment while Cartwright delivered lyrics with a snappy cadence. The band even channeled Thin Lizzy with a rowdy version of “My My”, while Cartwright’s vocals on “Never Coming Home” brought to mind Roky Erickson. Dave Amels added flourishes of soulful organ playing throughout the set, keeping each song close to the band’s Memphis roots. Cartwright stayed front and center both in terms of singing and a seeming ability to play nearly any style on guitar, but his band mates kept the groove moving forward with tight precision.
One could look at Reigning Sound as a band that taps into a range of retro influences, but the way they roll their influences all into one hard rocking package is entirely their own. Their show in Portland was everything you could want from a rock and roll band; loud, energetic, care-free, and continuously groovy.